Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Low Tech Approach to Recruitment (and Selling Your Car)

In my last post, social media was questioned for its potential efficacy in aiding recruitment efforts. Though I remain skeptical about the utility of outlets such as Twitter to drive significant improvements to research participation, earlier this week I found myself in an academic medical center with the same raised eyebrow… but this time around social media’s not so long lost cousin: the tear-off sheet.

Imagine the setting – a modern, bright and busy hospital lobby where I am pushing the button for the elevator. Right above the panel button? A tear-off sheet for a study at the hospital around diet. Every time I see a tear off sheet these days, I am either at the library or… the hospital. And what do I think of? The early 1980’s, waiting for food at our town's deli, reading the bulletin board to pass the time – music lessons, babysitting, items for sale.

But I digress… so after arriving up at the dermatology clinic for my son’s appointment on this particular day, we head into the exam room, door closes and… tear-off sheet: Do You Have Psoriasis? And since this sheet had a picture of psoriasis on it, my son was intrigued. What is this, how do you say it, who has this, does it hurt and so forth. Meanwhile, all I could think was… why is there a tear-off sheet, in a doctor’s exam room, where besides a medical professional there is also a computer running a multi-million dollar electronic records system?

Perhaps if my visit was for newly diagnosed psoriasis, I would have asked about the study after staring at the sheet for 20 minutes while I waited for my appointment. Or perhaps the doctor would have torn off the one-by-two inch piece of paper with a phone number on it and told me to call. Even thinking optimistically, it still struck me as so odd to be recruiting for a trial via paper, on a condition that is highly common in a dermatology clinic.

The “tear-off” approach to clinical trial recruiting seems so… transactional… when studies like this continue to show that patient attitudes towards clinical research tend to be at best uninformed (and at worst, fearful). It seems to me the best way to enhance recruitment is through the physician that already has the relationship with the patient – yet I admit that physicians are already pressed for time and balancing other patient demands. I can’t wait to hear what the experts at this fall’s conference have to say about the balance of self-identification for research versus physician engagement – and how technology, low and/or high, fits within.

About the author: Jennifer Crowley is a contributing writer for the Partnerships in Clinical Trials conference. When she is not working as a healthcare marketing and PR professional, Jennifer Crowley is mom to an eight year old son with cancer. His illness has largely driven her interests in patient advocacy, pediatric cancer research and personalized medicine. It's great to learn because knowledge is power!

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